On Monday night against Aston Villa, Newcastle defeated the Villains 2-0, but it wasn't as comfortable as it sounds, at all.
After a truly fantastic flag and scarf display funded by Gallowgate Flags and Wor Hyem 1892 which included a giant crowd surf flag, we all (or at least I did) expected a fantastic performance and match from the players. Unfortunately that wasn't the case...
A shaky start provided by the players saw very few attacks and chuckle brothers-esque ''to me to you'' passing round the back. We were almost punished for this, Scott Hogan headed the ball across the box to Birkir Bjarnason, who somehow missed an open goal by trying to kick the ball over his head, only to tap it out of play... The game seemed to pass by with almost nothing else happening for the first half, apart from when Dwight Gayle was substituted from Aleksander Mitrovic after 32 minutes, seemingly due to a knock.
Newcastle nearly went first half without having a shot, until on the 41st minute, the home side won a corner which would ultimately decide the goal, with some scrappy play in the box and terrible defending by Villa, the ball came straight to a pouncing Yoan Gouffran, who slotted it simply into the net to once again put us 1-0 up before half time. We could've gone 2-0 up soon after that too, when Matt Ritchie stormed down the pitch, only to put it far wide of the goal. Which summed up Newcastle's half.
The second half bought a lot more attacks and a lot better play. The highlight example is a great effort from Jonjo Shelvey from a free-kick, which went over the wall and nearly in, but Villa's keeper Sam Johnstone came to the rescue with a great save. A corner resulted in the 58th minute and Johnstone made yet another save, this time from a backheel attempt by Mo Diame, another set-peice came from in, falling to Jamaal Lascelles, who shot, only for it to hit off pantomime Villain Henri Lansbury who converted it into his own net, giving us justice for his ludicrous diving when we played Nottingham Forest in December, much to the crowd's delight, who started chants like: "Henri Lansbury! He's a w**ker! He's a w**ker! Henri Lansbury!.."
Unfortunately we died down from that point, and were once again so nearly punished. After an awful mid-air clearance attempt by Clark which fell to the feet of Villa's Birkir Bjarnason, who's shot at goal was met by a fantastic save from Karl Darlow. Not too long afterwards, Matt Ritchie had a penalty appeal turned down after a great bit of play from Paul Dummett, which would've for sure finished the game off but officials just aren't Premier League standards in the Championship.
More boring back passing occurred, for what seemed like 5 minutes we were just sitting round the back doing next to nothing. The game really did die off at that point but not before Jack Colback would have a good attempt on goal met by another Johnstone save.
Aston Villa could've scored two on the night however this game showed why they're so low in the league with poor finishing, and I think Brighton, Huddersfield and Reading would easily taken those chances. We've been slipping for a few games now, getting lucky wins against Derby and Wolves followed by a draw at Norwich, I'm worried for when we play the big boys, and more importantly for when we get into the Premier League.